Our Voting Rights Are Threatened

Posted by Tim Gilmer in Life After Paralysis on February 04, 2022 # Lifestyle

Mail in BallotMy earliest memories of voting go back to when I was a small boy in the 1950s. I remember riding in a car with my mother in the town where I grew up. She pulled to the curb in front of a square complex of connected school buildings for children from kindergarten through fifth grade, with classrooms, a music building, shop, a bus garage, cafeteria, library, and school district administrative buildings. She told me she was going inside to “boat” and would be right back.

As I waited, I envisioned her inside this large quadrangle of buildings with a lake in the center of it. I imagined her sitting in a boat with a lot of other people, paddling. It was years later before I realized that voting was nothing like boating, except in one respect. Whatever she did inside that huge secretive building, she did it with a lot of other people, and they were all in the same boat. Over time that one boat has been split up into a huge flotilla of boats, all competing for control of the waters. I happen to be in the disability boat, a good-sized boat with not much power.

In the last several years, the boats have recombined into two opposing fleets, and there is talk of a different kind of civil war emerging, decentralized, more like guerrilla warfare, teeming with tension, animosity, and the very real potential for violence. This kind of talk was unthinkable until the latest presidential election. Today our nation is no longer unified. We are, as Lincoln stated, a house divided against itself, and he warned us that such a house cannot stand.

The key to the future of our democracy is inextricably linked with the most precious civil right of all, voting. Each of us has choices to make. Whatever we do, those of us with disabilities are at a disadvantage due to a lack of political power, and we need to do everything we can to change that. Unfortunately, there are those who stand in the way.

Texas is one of several states that has recently imposed numerous new voting restrictions — many of which limit our ability to vote, especially by mail. In implementing Texas’ S.B. 1, which went into effect on December 2, an alarming percentage of vote-by-mail applications are being rejected by county election officials who are struggling to understand the new changes in time for Texas’ March primary election. The limitations especially threaten disabled (and elderly) voters’ chances of having their votes counted — because voting by mail is so important to our group as a whole, and it’s getting harder to access that right.

My state of Oregon has been voting by mail for about 15 years, and I can testify that as a wheelchair user, it is the best method I have ever experienced in my more than 50 years of voting. However, Oregon is only one of a small handful of states with an established track record of distributing mail-in ballots and providing multiple options for returning, receiving and counting them.

We are not the only group that is in danger of losing our collective voting power. Minorities, especially Black and Latino communities, were targeted by Texas’ new voting law. Many other states are doing the same, and not by accident. It won’t take a great many states to seize national control. Black communities share with disabled people a history of segregation and discrimination. Their historic efforts to gain and defend the right to vote are part of their larger struggle to gain equality. Think of it: the promise of equality enshrined by our nation’s founders has been historically denied them or otherwise restricted for 400 years. Those who favor restricted voting possibilities, no matter what “justification” they invent, are, in my opinion, guided by the worst in human nature. And for what purpose? To keep control of power and wealth. Sadly, this is going on in many other states, not just Texas.

Those of us with significant disabilities, whether from birth, disease or trauma, know well the struggle to gain equality. It is entrenched in this nation’s history, if not the world, as evidenced by institutionalized segregation in the past and our ongoing battles to overcome harmful stereotypes — obvious and subtle — that doggedly portray us as less than. Our right to vote is critical to at least maintain our status quo and hopefully, improve our lives and our future. It must be protected.

Why have so many restrictive voting bills been erected as barriers and disguised as attempts at restoring “integrity” by those who fear losing power? They are desperate to control the voting and the vote-counting process as part of a well-planned, corrupted process, a scheme founded on an obvious lie. No less than seven states controlled by the defeated president’s complicit legislators each submitted a counterfeit alternate slate of electors declaring their electoral votes were the authentic ones following the 2020 election. It was an organized attempt to throw the official count into confusion and eventually invalidate the authentic results — https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/us/politics/jan-6-fake-trump-electors.html.

Those seven states were targeted because all were officially won by President Biden. And those fake documents were put forth with absolutely no supporting evidence. Scores of federal judges from both parties have struck down the baseless allegations underlying them, including the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, on January 6, 2021, hundreds if not thousands of Trump's most radical followers mounted a violent and deadly attack on Congress and then-Vice President Pence to delay or scuttle certification of the official results.

Their current plan now is to corrupt the voting process with voter suppression and to commandeer the electoral process by whatever means possible. And not just voting power is threatened. Our precious democracy is at risk. This is all the more reason to form alliances and consolidate voting power. It’s high time to consider adding our votes and support to those who have been historically segregated and discriminated against. If ever there was a time when fair-minded people in all states needed to consolidate voting power and join with Black, Latino, disabled and elderly voters, it is now.

Tim Gilmer graduated from UCLA in the late-1960’s, added an M.A. from the Southern Oregon University in 1977, taught writing classes in Portland for 12 years, then embarked on a writing career. After becoming an Oregon Literary Fellow, he went on to join New Mobility magazine in 2000 and edited the magazine for 18 years. He has published upwards of 100 articles, 200 columns, occasional movie reviews and essays. He and Sam, his wife and companion of 47 years, also own and operate an organic farm south of Portland, where they live with their daughter and son-in-law, four grandsons, and a resident barn owl. An excerpt from a memoir about his early post-SCI years, as part of a compendium of his writing over the past 30 years, can be read at his website — All You Need

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.